J A Garrett

Curiously nerdy posts.

Jim Butcher: Worst to Best, part 3.

After a week off from this, it’s time to resume my rankings of all things Dresden Files. This is just going to get tougher and tougher, as the books at this point just start getting really good.

 

#8. White Night

Logline: In Chicago, someone has been killing practitioners of magic, those incapable of becoming full-fledged wizards. Shockingly, all the evidence points to Harry Dresden’s half-brother, Thomas, as the murderer. Determined to clear his sibling’s name, Harry uncovers a conspiracy within the White Council of Wizards that threatens not only him, but his nearest and dearest, too…

What I like: After mentioning her in passing as his first love in the previous books, in this one, we finally get to meet Elaine. She’s alive and well, and not dead like Harry thought she was. Their relationship is interesting, and as you might expect, she rivals Harry in magic power. The actual plotline, too, is a classic whodunit with magic that this series made its name on. I think my favorite part of this book, though, is how it really shows Harry’s reputation in his city, and his effect on magic users who live there. Other books, you get hints, and mentions in passing. But this one goes out of its way to show that Harry really is considered the guardian of Chicago, willing to battle the bad guys even if there’s no one to leave a bill with.

What I don’t like: The Raith family, as you might expect, play a big role in this one, what with Thomas being central to the plot and all. And as I said before, they just don’t interest me as much as other Vampire Courts do.

Favorite moment: When Lara Raith uses her succubi powers to discover that Warden Ramirez isn’t quite the ladies man he thinks he is. Also, this book has a truly epic, jaw dropping climax involving a cavern full of ghouls, and a platform riding a huge explosion of magic. It’s really one of the better climaxes in the series.

Original rating: *****

#7. Ghost Story

Logline:

When an unknown someone shoots him and leaves him to die, Harry Dresden hopes he might be heading to a better place. Unfortunately, being dead doesn’t make Harry’s life any easier.
 
Trapped between life and death, he learns that his friends are in serious trouble. Only by finding his murderer can he save his friends and move on—a feat which would be a lot easier if he had a body and access to his powers. Worse still are the malevolent shadows that roam Chicago, controlled by a dark entity that wants Harry to suffer even in death.
 
Now, the late Harry Dresden will have to pull off the ultimate trick without using any magic—or face an eternity as just another lost soul…
What I liked: This one is a fantastic show of creativity, as Butcher really showcases an interesting concept of the afterlife, and of course, ghosts, since Harry is one in this novel. I spent a long time getting hyped over this one, especially after the ending to Changes. And boy howdy, this one didn’t disappoint. You find out what really happened to Harry, you get an interesting look at how ghosts work, and how some just fade away, while others live on to haunt people. There’s also a really cool character named Leopold that only makes an appearance in this book. I was legitimately sad at what happened to him. Also, the plot to this one carries over well, since it’s related to my favorite Dresden book.
What I didn’t like: This one leaned a little bit too heavily on pop culture references. Butcher tends to have a deft touch with these, but the climactic scene was a bit much.
Favorite moment: Pretty much anything with Molly in it. She really stole the show for me in this book. From turning into a crazy homeless mage after Harry died, to showing what she can do when she cuts loose with her powers, to the first time she sees Harry’s ghost, to the central plot point that shows just how much she’s suffered in carrying one of Harry’s biggest secrets. She really shined here.
Original rating: *****

#6. Storm Front

 

Logline: For Harry Dresden, Chicago’s only professional wizard, business, to put it mildly, stinks. So when the police bring him in to consult on a grisly double murder committed with black magic, Harry’s seeing dollar signs. But where there’s black magic, there’s a black mage behind it. And now that mage knows Harry’s name.

What I liked: Pretty much everything! This set up the entire series, being book 1 and all. And it did so extremely well, introducing us to Harry’s world and an amazing sense of fun almost immediately from the get go. It has magic, it has mobsters, it has vampires, it has grisly black magic murders. It’s got everything. This one, moreso than the rest, makes Harry feel very much like an everyman, and not just an extraordinary person who wants us to think they’re ordinary, like Spiderman or Harry later in the series*. So many plotlines get set up in this book, it’ll make your head spin… and it will keep spinning until you read all the rest.

*I will touch on this in a later post, but there’s nothing that annoys me more than when a writer tries to sell a character as an average joe when they’re clearly not. Spiderman just happens to be a huge offender on that.

What I didn’t like: To be honest, the opening scene is kind of slow and sort of cliche. Make it through those first few pages, though, and you won’t put it down.

Favorite moment: Harry’s battle with a toad demon, while he’s naked from just showering, and with his date for the night drunk on a love potion trying to seduce him while he’s trying to make sure they don’t die. This scene really set the tone for what kind of action to expect out of the series, and is masterfully done.

Original rating: *****

#5. Small Favor

Logline: Harry Dresden?s life finally seems to be calming down, until a shadow from the past returns. Mab, monarch of the Sidhe Winter Court, calls in an old favor from Harry – one small favor that will trap him between a nightmarish foe and an equally deadly ally, and that will strain his skills -and loyalties- to their very limits.

What I liked: This book marks the return of one of my favorite villains in the series, Nicodemus. And somehow, he’s found a plot that makes him even more dangerous than in his first appearance. It also wraps up the Lasciel storyline introduced several books before in a very satisfying way. This book is heavy on crazy action, even by Butcher’s standards, and the stakes are nothing short of epic, with a climax to match.

What I didn’t like: Not much at all, really. It’s just that the four books in front of it are just that good.

Favorite moment: Harry’s heated discussion with a “janitor” in a hospital chapel. I’ve always been interested by his take on theology, and this part is no different.

 

Four more to go! I’m really enjoying doing this. Hopefully I’m inspiring some people to read them anew, or for the first time. Regardless, I’ll finish this soon.

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